i'm with the brand

Michel Gondry calls the emperor on the whole no clothes situation
March 16, 2010, 2:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

gondry and gaga

I’m sick and tired of people talking about Lady Gaga as if she’s some game-changing avant-garde breath of fresh air. Catchy as it may be, her music is resolutely derivative, but she’s somehow managed to distract everyone with an entrancing combination of hype, clothes, and infuriatingly affected speech–trickery! But wacky costumes do not a groundbreaking artist make. Luckily, I can stop feeling crazy (or can I?), because Michel Gondry agrees.

While the rest of the world treated the premiere of Lady Gaga’s why-does-it-exist video opus, “Telephone” as some sort of major cultural event (why??), Michel Gondry, visionary director of some of the most inventive films and music videos of this generation, declared himself “not interested.” Slam!

Read the exclusive interview on Movieline: Music Video Pioneer Michel Gondry on Lady Gaga: “I’m Not Interested”

In celebration of truly interesting, fun, innovative music videos and the artistry they celebrate–both musical and visual–here’s a couple vintage Gondry…

And one from another of my favorite music video-turned-film directors, Spike Jonze:


Perfume-turned-cervical cancer commercial gives women the bait and switch
March 7, 2010, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , ,

cervical cancer

“Maybe it’s unfair to get your attention this way, but nothing’s fair about cervical cancer,” intones a voiceover towards the end of a new TV spot by pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline. The spot begins as a run-of-the-mill designer perfume ad–sumptuous ambience, tinkling music, beautiful woman, vapid-but-pretty discovery narrative–but quickly turns jarring, as the woman finds not an exquisite fragrance but instead deadly cervical cancer in a gleaming and innoccuous bottle. Startled, she turns away, and the voiceover reveals the spot’s PSA (-esque; obviously we understand the underlying objective is to sell more vaccines) purpose, adding the damning statistic that in the US, a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer every 47 minutes, and urging viewers to visit helppreventcervicalcancer.com for information on vaccinations, medical tests, and lifestyle changes that can help prevent and detect this insidious disease.

The cleverest and subtlest in a series of ads run in GlaxoSmithKline’s Help Prevent Cervical Cancer campaign, this spot gets women’s attention by backing into the real issue when the viewer’s guard is down. Without being melodramatic, graphic, or preachy, the approach not only gets more attention in the first place by keeping its cause marketing identity secret until the critical moment, but also ultimately delivers a more effective message by provoking a very real and unsettling feeling of unease in those whose curiosity was piqued by the prospect of the latest luxury bauble, sophisticated spritz, or material acquisition–items whose pursuit seems particularly silly when compared to the paramount importance of securing our health and wellbeing.

Shirts cleaner than an ad man’s conscience: Clorox’s Mad Men DVD Insert
clorox insert

The front of Clorox's Mad Men DVD insert: "Getting ad guys out of hot water for generations"

Almost all the brands advertising during the broadcast of Mad Men go for the same approximate strategy: demonstrate long brand heritage, show old-timey product shots of packaging changes over the years, maybe throw in some footage from vintage commercials, go retro retro retro, and ape the program’s throwback aesthetic and theme almost as if the show’s buttoned-up 60’s vibe is the only thing anyone who loves it cares about. I’m not saying they’re not fun, interesting, beautiful ads–in fact, kudos to BMW, Canada Dry, Clorox, et al. for tailoring the ads so well to their media placement–I’m just saying they all start to look the same one after the other, until you’re thinking, I get it, you’ve been around a long time. You’re hip to what this show’s about. Can we please get back to the story now?

I suppose I don’t envy them–trying to come up with clever, innovative branding to tie in on a show that revolves around clever, innovative branding is a lot of pressure. It’s hard not to be self conscious in that weirdly-meta creative environment, to be sure.

But Clorox rose to the occasion with their Season 2 Mad Men DVD insert. A simple single-sheeter tucked discreetly into the 3D shirt-box-lookalike DVD packaging (a tip of the hat to Mad Men’s consistently clever packaging team–the Season 1 DVD box, shaped like a Zippo lighter, was made of metal) featured an extreme closeup of a crisp white shirt collar like that on the outside of the box–except with a scandalous smear of lipstick, and the cheeky tagline “Getting ad guys out of hot water for generations”–a nod on the notorious womanizers of Mad Men. This simple execution managed to align the brand even better than before with the real reasons people love Mad Men, squeezing in a product benefit (and a little coupon on the back for all those desperate housewives…and househusbands?) while paying oblique homage to the characters and story that make the show great.

Clorox insert back

The back of the Clorox Mad Men DVD insert: "Saves the day while saving you half a buck"

Mad Men Season 2 DVD box

The Mad Men Season 2 box in which the insert came--the top part of the box had a clear cellophane pane just like a shirt box, and the box underneath had a shirt printed on it for a true 3D effect. The shirt's label cleverly reads "Menken's," after the department store owned by Don Draper's client-turned-secret-love

Man vs Wild puts Bear Grylls’s camel carcass residence up for rent
March 1, 2010, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , ,

Photos via Getty Images

One of the most memorable episodes of Man vs Wild had to be the one where Bear Grylls gutted a dead camel in the desert and climbed inside its cavernous carcass to protect himself from dust storms–you know, like you do when you’re in the desert and have a dead camel to spare.

Now, as a promotion for its new season, Man vs Wild is letting people take a tour of this unusual desert residence. In a stunt in Sydney, Australia, the Discovery Channel, which airs the show, placed a life-sized replica of the camel carcass on a street, touting it “open for inspection.” The stunt invited passersby to hop in for the “open house,” which was also advertised on a local real estate rental website. Billed as a snooty rental property (Camelot–punny excellence), the camel carcass lets people get a taste of Bear’s desert digs and engage playfully with the outlandish adventures the show regularly features.

Watch Bear Grylls’s original feat here. Not for the super-squeamish, but awesome nonetheless… just as nuts and vaguely unnecessary-seeming as everything he does, but worth watching in spite of/because of it:

Sussex Safer Roads dispenses with scare tactics, crafts gorgeous PSA
February 1, 2010, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , ,


This spot by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership is mesmerizing and beautiful, and shows that you can make a powerful PSA and a strong statement about safe driving without resorting to the ghoulish gore and glass-shards that seem to be the coin of the realm. Riveted by its slow motion images, anxious-entranced because we’re not yet sure of the tone (is it going to be funny? sad? scary?), we’re waiting for the twist–and the captivating commercial twists the twist to deliver an even more memorable and poignant image we can take with us onto the roads.

Watch it here:

Paste magazine asks: Is Indie Dead?

Illustration by Samuel Bosma (via Paste)

A must-read for anyone who cares about culture: Paste’s Rachael Maddux asks the question: Is Indie Dead? in the cover story for the magazine’s February issue.

In an incisive and far-ranging analysis Maddux grabs for fistfuls of smoke trying to pin a definition on the word, but nevertheless expertly and wittily charts its history, influence, rise, and fall—explaining, among other things, the advertising-music-culture cross-ramifications of a pervasive sensibility built around precisely its non-pervasiveness.

Read the essay to find out just how the democratization of technology, an Internet that eats its young, morphing music industry models, and cultural co-option (co-option?) of scene have worked together to create (and in some ways, kill) one of the most unstoppable and influential forces in pop culture today: the paradoxically elusive and ubiquitous “indie.”

Wrangler and Levi’s: Jeans campaigns share conceptual genes
January 27, 2010, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , , ,

Wrangler We Are Animals

AdFreak recently highlighted Fred & Farid’s Cannes Grand Prix-winning “We are animals” campaign for Wrangler’s European rebranding, and it reminded me strongly of the ads we’ve seen all year for Levi’s—Wieden & Kennedy’s expertly-hewn “Go forth” campaign. (Advertising Age pithily notes the latter is “no good because it’s too good by half.” I’m inclined to agree.)

It’s interesting to me that two such similar brands would take such a similar route at around the same time—and that both would manage to do it so well. In Levi’s spots, stern, crackling directives and psycho-scrawls send dust-bowl darlings bounding across the vast pioneer-promised land; in Wrangler’s, red-dusted hellions  flail and contort like the primal spirits they are.

What we see in both campaigns is the cheesy discount cowboy hokum of yore replaced by something earthy, optimistic, and deliciously reckless. Each has an element of Americana, Whitman romantic while Kerouac ominous. In a world where jeans have turned hyper-tailored, sleek, and designer-fussy, both Levi’s and Wrangler replace pretension with authenticity and present an alternative that’s unhokily rugged, young, and raw. Each campaign makes it about some underlying truth about human nature, so it’s a question of lifestyle and an assertion of outlook rather than a drab and meaningless global uniform. Each has the unironic sincerity of a stripped down close-up portrait, and each is aspirational—just maybe in a way we’re not used to seeing. Whether they’ll make an impact on sales is another issue altogether, but in these aesthetic-and-conceptual-DNA-sharing campaigns, both brands offer us something fresh and powerful in a world of winking blasé preciousness.

Wrangler We Are Animals

Levi's Go Forth